Cavanaugh, Spire team up to bring natural gas to Alabama poultry farmers
HEFLIN — Several poultry operations in East Alabama will have access to natural gas this winter thanks to a collaborative effort between Alabama Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh and Spire.
During a groundbreaking ceremony held at a farm near Heflin, Cavanaugh outlined what an important economic development initiative the new pipeline would be for rural Alabama. The farm, owned and operated by Eric Lovvorn, is set to be the first in the area to receive service from the new natural gas pipeline.
“Opening up a natural gas pipeline for poultry farmers will be a job-creating initiative for our state,” Cavanaugh said. “If Alabama families don’t have jobs, we’ve got a problem. In order to create those jobs you have to have infrastructure, and utilities are an essential part of that.”
She highlighted the wide impact of the industry in rural areas, including dependent jobs in hatcheries and processing plants and in the trucking industry.
This particular project will involve two phases, the first of which began in May and will provide service to farms by mid-December. Construction of 3.5 miles of pipeline was completed in phase one.
A second phase, once approved by the Alabama Public Service Commission, would involve constructing an additional 6.75 miles of pipeline and create dozens of jobs in the process. It has the potential to provide service to several additional poultry operations, as well as other commercial and residential customers in East Alabama.
Cavanaugh, who grew up working at her grandfather’s chicken farm in South Alabama, spoke about how feedback from local farmers eventually became a significant economic development project.
She said once she knew what she wanted to see, it became a matter of seeking out someone with whom she could work to make the project happen.
“When Kyle [Rogers] came on board, I finally had a partner who would listen and think outside the box for a solution,” she explained.
Rogers, vice president of External Affairs at Spire, made note of the fact that Cavanaugh came to him with a vision for what could be done to improve the area’s infrastructure.
“She challenged me personally when I came onboard at Spire to find a way to be creative, to think outside of the box, to do something that we had not been able to do previously, which is get natural gas to this area,” Rogers remarked.
Standing outside a brand new natural gas compressor station built by Spire, Rogers pointed out that the project fit well within his company’s four guiding principles.
“First, we care about the citizens of Alabama and our customers,” he said. “Second, we support advancements. Advancing technologies and new ideas will provide the state with a more reliable and sustainable energy source. Third, is perspective. We understand our role as a utility and the foundation upon which you can build economies and you can provide affordable natural gas to citizens. Finally, we believe in collaboration. We collaborate with citizens and elected officials. Most notably, we collaborate with President Cavanaugh and her fellow commissioners to bring about these sorts of initiatives that can really play a significant role in bringing critical infrastructure to a part of the state which has not had natural gas, and that really opens a lot of opportunities.”
Spire’s delivery of natural gas will provide some much-needed relief for poultry farmers, according to an industry leader.
Johnny Adams, CEO of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, described the financial challenges a cold winter can bring to farmers.
“Gas costs in a cold winter can be outrageous if you don’t have something like natural gas,” he explained.
The poultry industry is the largest industrial employer in the state, accounting for 66% of all agriculture revenues in Alabama, according to Adams.
“This project is an example of the things we can do to support our critical industries,” Cavanaugh concluded. “Agriculture is the backbone of our economy and anything we can do to grow it and support rural Alabama is good for the entire state. This project will help create jobs and open up even more opportunities in the future.”
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia